It's Like Facebook For Plants!

Who you callin' moth orchid? That's phalaenopsis to you, buddy.
Who you callin' moth orchid? That's phalaenopsis to you, buddy.
There are a lot of plants out there. A lot. Some of them eat bugs. Some of them smell bad.

And all of them (well, as close to all of them as can be expected) are on The Plant List, a collaborative effort between the Missouri Botanical Garden and Britain's Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

The document, which is described as "a working list of all land plant species," includes 1.25 million plant names. About 300,000 of those are official, accepted names for plants and 480,000 are synonyms. (Lots of plants have many names -- you say tomato, I say tom-ah-to.)

But the list only includes scientific, Latin names. So searching "phalaenopsis" will get you 234 results, but just plain "orchid" gets you nowhere.

The list is the first phase of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, a set of protocols for conservation adopted in 1999 here in St. Louis at the XVI International Botanical Congress. The idea is that standardizing names for plants, including variations and synonyms, will allow people from all over to effectively communicate about them, which will make saving them and caring for them that much simpler.

And because the list is arranged in a taxonomic hierarchy -- that is, starting with group, then family, then genus, then species -- you can learn how closely different plants are related. No word on what species Audrey Jr. is, so you're on your own finding her cousins.

Since 1982, the Missouri Botanical Garden has maintained Tropicos, a database of plant species around the world. Tropicos was used in creating The Plant List, as were a half-dozen other similar lists.

"The on-time completion of The Plant List is a significant accomplishment for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Missouri Botanical Garden, and our partners worldwide," Stephen Hopper, the director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said in a press release. "This is crucial to planning, implementing and monitoring plant conservation programs around the world."
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